Saturday, February 26, 2011

Italian Beer Series: La Ghenga (Montepulciano)

Birrificio L'Olmaia is located south of Montepulciano, in the beautiful Val d'Orcia. Producing largely classic brews using local products, the brewery nonetheless does not venture out too far from the traditional. Although right in the middle of Brunello and Vino Nobile country, the brewery does not incorporate wine products and byproducts such as grape musks into their product, a practice common to the more popular beer producers in the Barollo-producing areas in Piemonte. Instead, recently the brewery's claim to fame is its efforts to introduce Italian craft beer (or just their product, depending on how one wants to look at it) to a larger Italian audience through deals with chains such as Emisfero to sell their products using competitive pricing. (1, 2)

La Ghenga, a beer produced by L'Olmaia for such a purpose, is widely available in Vicenza and across the Veneto. I have seen the beer in grocery stores from Verona to Padova down to Rovigo. At 6 euros at a local supermarket, this artisanal beer is a relative bargain. However, this one is merely a mediocre beer in a fancy bottle. On pour, the rosy and cloudy beer produces a medium off white head with slight lacing. It is noticeably unflitered by the chunks of yeast that eventually settles in the bottom of the glass. The aroma is balanced with hops and malt, with a touch of overripe fruit. The taste starts with a bit of sweetness and tartness, but the unpleasant bitterness quickly overruns and overpowers. A good introduction to Italian craft beer due to its wide availability, but by no means the pinnacle.

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